Honorable Governor Brown,
We write with collective concern over your recent decision to approve early release for adults in custody who are serving their time in state prisons, due to possible susceptibility to the Coronavirus. Like you, our hope is that all Oregonians are safe, healthy and well during this unique and challenging time. However, early release of adults in custody will not prevent this exposure; the chance of contracting the virus in public is just as great.
Of particular concern is your statement that “In no case may an adult in custody be released if they present an unacceptable safety, security, or compliance risk to the community.” Any adult in custody being granted early release poses a risk to the community because of the drastic underfunding of community corrections and support services. Adults in custody will need housing, medical care, parole supervision, mental health services, job training and support, etc. Our community services are already overwhelmed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the incredible number of people who are out of work. What’s more, adults in custody would already have these services provided by the Oregon Department of Corrections while serving out their sentences in prison.
Our already-overloaded vital community services with be further strained by this decision. Furthermore, releasing adults in custody during a pandemic increases the possibility of losing track of those individuals who would need to be monitored upon release.
Our legislative districts include both the largest and smallest prisons in the state, including the Snake River Correctional Facility (Ontario), Powder River Correctional Facility (Baker City), Deer Ridge Correctional Institution (Madras), and Warner Creek Correctional Facility (Lakeview). Granting early release for even a few adults in custody from any of these facilities would be detrimental to the surrounding communities and support services.
We urge you reconsider your decision to allow an early release of adults in custody. Our communities cannot provide the tools necessary for these individuals to succeed upon release at this time.
State Senator, Oregon Senate District 30
State Representative, House District 60
Cc: Director Colette Peters, ODOC